Hey all! Danielle Bannister and I are SUPER excited to share with all of you a sneak peek of our prologue for HOLLOW EARTH, book 2 of our Hallowed Realms series. Banshees, Reapers, and Humans, oh my! If you haven’t read Netherworld, what are you waiting for? It’s only 99 pennies until October 30th!!!
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As a special thank you to those of you who pre-order from us, we are releasing HOLLOW EARTH to you for only $0.99. On release day, October 30th this price will increase to $2.99 for release week. Then it will settle at it’s intended price of $3.99 so be sure to grab yours and save!!!
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SNEEK PEAK OF HOLLOW EARTH
There were only two things I knew for certain. The boat that had been carrying me to the Isle of Glass where Taryn said I’d spend the rest of my existence, now lived at the bottom of the sea. And two, I had no idea where the hell I was. The last thing the captain of my boat meant to ferry my soul to my final destination had said was to swim like I never had before. These awful looking things he called lorcan had overtaken the ship in a matter of minutes. He had said they were after the souls of those on board. One look at those hideous black beasts and my body was in the water, swimming for safety.
Those monsters were fierce. Twice my size, with scales, and decaying flesh. It was like an alligator crossed with a burned and decomposing body. The thought of them, even now, shook me to the core.
When you added my current reality of hiding in the woods with the fact that my memories of my time on Earth no longer existed, it equaled disaster. I had no past memories of my life before Taryn brought me through the veil. Only brief memories of my life since coming into Netherworld, and no knowledge of why any of this happened. Or how to fix it.
For several hours after I’d climbed out of the very same waters the lorcan attacked me in, I sat crouched in fear in the shrubs lining the forest. I didn’t dare run or make any noise in case the lorcan was still in the water. Thinking back on them made my blood turn to ice. I never wanted to see another one of them again. I waited and shivered as my drenched green velvet dress attempted to dry out in the shade of the trees.
With chattering teeth, I looked around, trying to figure out how to get help. Until I figured that out and, more importantly, how to make it to the Isle of Glass, I knew danger would lurk. Think, Alana. I gnawed on my lower lip as I considered my limited options. The only person I knew beyond the veil was Taryn. As a banshee here in Netherworld, she must have some idea of how to get me back and what happened. The only problem was I had no idea how to find her.
Surveying the lay of the land, I noted that on two sides lived woods. Behind me was the water I had fled from. There was no way I was stepping even a pinky toe back in that. Which only left the ominous looking wall that was off in the distance to my left. There was something about the sheer height of it that terrified me. Since it seemed to be my best shot at finding civilization, I had to try. Out here, alone in the woods, I was a sitting duck for the lorcan to find me again.
I shivered as I stood up slowly, making as little noise as possible. When the lorcan didn’t burst out of the water to kill me, I risked taking a few steps out from my hiding spot. Still nothing. Swallowing down my fear, I bolted for the fuller cover of the forest. My plan was to run until my lungs gave out, but I found I wasn’t tiring. It was the same as when I swam away from the boat. I guess it made sense. I was dead. I didn’t need to breathe, or eat, or sleep. I looked down at my fully formed body as I ran and wondered how my physical form could exist if there was nothing there to sustain it. Oh, this was all so confusing.
Sensing I wasn’t in immediate danger, I slowed my run to a walk to try to get my bearings. The vegetation all seemed normal looking. Trees like we had on Earth…I think. Tall and green. There were moss-covered stones, thick roots emerging from the ground. The occasional small critter scampering the forest floor kept my guard up. I kept the wall in my line of sight as I walked, making sure I didn’t get too close to the water’s edge. No sense in tempting fate.
I kept glancing towards the dense tree cover, waiting for something to jump out and scare me, when I noticed something dark along the shoreline. It was half in and half out of the water. For a moment, I thought it was a lorcan, so I froze in place, but as I watched, I noticed that whatever it was wasn’t moving. Still, it didn’t look like any carcass I’d ever seen…well, not that I remembered. It was maddening not to remember my life on Earth.
Against my better judgment, I walked a little closer towards the figure. From the safety of the edge of the woods, I watched for several minutes as the water crested over the mass. It was odd. Each time the waves receded, they seemed to drag a trail of black silt with it, disintegrating the carcass with each lap of the water.
Looking farther down the shoreline, I saw several others like this one, though each mass had varying levels of decay. From that point on, I opted to stay far away from the sea. Whatever was happening in those waters could not be good. They almost looked like the lorcan, but they were smaller, though no less terrifying. I wasn’t about to get closer to confirm it.
When I’d almost reached the wall, I noticed smoke. Tall, billowing clouds of dark smoke poured out of what appeared to be an entire row of fires spaced near the wall. They were all burning bright, save for one nearest the water. Its fire had died out.
Curious and still cold, I wondered if there was anyone manning the fires. There might be someone there who could help me. Just as I was about to step foot out of the shadow of the trees to inspect the scene more closely, a massive hulk of a man appeared out of nowhere in front of me.
I jumped back, tripping over my skirts, and screamed. My arms pin-wheeled as my feet tangled on a root and landed flat on my backside.
“Peace, child. I mean you no harm.”
My hands had instinctively raised over my head in a feeble attempt to protect myself from danger. Still terrified, I risked a glance through my hands and got a closer look at the man before me. He was nearly two metres tall, clean-shaven, with blond hair and dark brown eyes. Yet, it was his massive torso that held my attention. I could fit two of myself against his chest. The man had a savage yet gentle manner about him.
“Who are you?” I asked, trying to assess if he was a friend or an enemy.
“I might ask the same of you, lass.” He extended a long arm out to help me up.
I looked at his hand, pondering whether to take it or not. Would someone who wanted me dead offer to help me to stand up? That seemed unlikely, so I reached out and took his hand.
He lifted me as though I weighed little more than a feather. As he hoisted me up, I noticed he was wearing some sort of leather armor. He looked like he had come off the pages of a fantasy novel. On his arms lived a spider web of black scars much like the ones Taryn had on her face. His entire persona screamed warrior, and I couldn’t help be comforted by that.
It hit me then how beautiful he was. He was the sort of man I should feel attracted to, but for some reason, he didn’t stir any physical emotion for me. I wondered if I was even capable of feeling desire in this half-life I was stuck in.
“My name is Alana—” I said but then frowned when I tried to recall my last name. Why can’t I remember something so easy? I have to have a last name, don’t I?
“I’m Eivin.” He raised an eyebrow as he took in my sad state. “It’s not safe for you to be wandering in these woods. Especially this close to the Wall.” He reached down and picked up the edge of my dress. “You’re soaking wet. What happened to you?” His massive hand went instinctively to his blade as he scanned the horizon. “Did someone attack you?”
“My boat was,” I said, relieved that I had found someone to tell. “Everyone aboard is dead. I barely made it to the shore.”
Eivin’s nostrils flared as he walked past me, still searching for the danger.
“Who attacked you?” he asked from behind me.
Eivin turned back to me. A look of doubt lay on his face, so I felt compelled to tell him the rest.
“That’s what the captain called them…before he was killed. Lorcan.” I shivered at the memory. “One minute I was heading for the Isle of Glass, the next these black things were killing everyone around me.”
Eivin came back to me and took me by the arm, forcing me to look at him.
“You were bound for the Isle of Glass?” His eyes seemed to be searching for a lie that wasn’t there.
I nodded. I got the sense that my being here wasn’t a good thing.
“Do you know what those things are?” I asked. “Are we safe here on land? Do they only live in the water? What do they want?” I rattled off a million questions because he seemed to understand what I was saying. I prayed he had the answers about how to fix it all.
“That’s impossible,” he said, brushing past me and walking towards the line of the sea.
“Stay away from the water!” I shouted. “They might attack you.”
He turned to look at me. “The lorcan don’t like water. They avoid it at all costs.” Eivin turned and pointed towards the wall, which I now noticed was not gated along the edge of the water. “That’s why there is no wall along the edge. Which makes me curious how a lorcan could have possibly attacked your boat. An attack on a Transition Centre boat has never occurred before.” He crossed his arms over his chest, challenging my story.
“It wasn’t one lorcan. It was a swarm of them,” I said. “They swam, in the water, like a herd of crocodiles. I saw them climb up the boat myself. I barely made it out alive before they ripped everything on board to shreds!” I realised I was screaming, but he had to believe me.
“Describe them to me,” Eivin asked, watching me with doubt in his eyes.
He didn’t believe me. Fine. I’d have to convince him I was telling the truth then.
“Well, they were massive to start with, way bigger than even you! And they had claws,” I said, remembering the size of their hands. “The sailors were throwing harpoons at them as they swam towards the ships, but they bounced right off their backs! Nothing seemed to be able to stop them.” My mind fought with the memories I had wanted to forget. “Their mouths”—I recalled—“their mouths were like an alligator’s. I’m telling you, Eivin, they weren’t human!” I paused and looked at him. “I don’t know what a human is anymore. Am I still one? Are you?” My heart was racing, trying to figure out the logic of it all.
“Breathe, lass. Finish your story. We can sort the rest out later.”
I nodded, happy to focus on something else other than my panic. “The captain said they were lorcan. I remember that term precisely. He said they were after our souls. He told me to abandon ship. Which I did as soon as I heard the screams of the people below deck.” I flinched at the memory. “When I got to the shore…the ship was gone. There was nothing left. Not even a floating board. I don’t know what happened, Eivin, but you have to believe me. Those things are in the water!”
Eivin’s eyes were no longer narrowed. His face had registered a new expression I couldn’t read.
“Aye, that sounds like lorcan.” He walked away from the water to look again at the wall. “How did they survive in the water, though?” His voice was quiet. “In all my years as a reaper, I have never once seen a lorcan go near it.”
“Is it possible they can go in but can’t survive there for long?” I offered.
Eivin turned to look at me, not understanding me.
“Well, that would explain the rotting corpses all along the shore. Have you not seen them?”
Eivin pulled a sword out so fast it shocked me. “Show me.”
Reluctantly, I took him to the remains I had seen by the water. I stood back by the trees as Eivin poked at the black blobs with his sword. I marveled at how the blade seemed to be crafted out of glass. As he touched his sword against the corpse, the section his sword touched crumbled into a heap like ash. He poked at the thing a few more times until it was little more than dust floating in the wind.
“This makes no sense,” he said.
“None of this does to me,” I confessed.
Eivin continued to poke at the corpses, watching them disintegrate. “I was afraid of this. That’s why I insisted on the fires on both sides of the Wall. I feared they might have found a way out.” He looked back at the wall. “But where?”
“Eivin. I’m scared,” I admitted. Though I didn’t know him at all, he was the only person I’d come across. “Taryn never mentioned lorcan at all when she took me to the Transition Centre.”
“Taryn? You know my cousin?”
I blinked up at him. “She’s your cousin? Thank God. I didn’t know how I was going to reach her. She was the banshee who collected my soul.” Hope flooded me. “Do you know where she is? She is the only one I know who might be able to help me get back to the Isle of Glass.”
Eivin’s face darkened.
“Aye,” he said. “I know where she is. But she’s in the castle, and I can’t just send ya there. Her situation is…delicate at the moment. I need to talk to Aed. He’ll know what to do.” He took another look at my dress. “Come on, lass. Let’s find you something dry to wear before ye catch your death.”
“Already dead, remember?”
“Right. Sorry. I’ve never run into one of your kind outside the Transition Centre. It’s unheard of. But you’re right. If anyone knows the answer, it’ll be Taryn.”
“Thank you,” I whispered. Finally, something was going my way.
Stay tuned NEXT FRIDAY for a sneek peak of Chapter 1 of Hollow Earth!